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2021 Audi Q5 Vs. 2021 Lincoln Corsair: Which Plug-in Hybrid Luxury SUV Should You Buy?

audi q5 e 2021 lincoln corsair gt 2021 01 blue exterior front angle grey suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 lincoln corsair gt 2021 04 blue exterior grey profile suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 lincoln corsair gt 2021 03 blue exterior front angle grey suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 lincoln corsair gt 2021 02 blue exterior front angle grey suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 lincoln corsair gt 2021 06 blue exterior grey rear angle suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 lincoln corsair gt 2021 05 blue exterior grey rear angle suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 lincoln corsair gt 2021 01 blue exterior front angle grey suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 lincoln corsair gt 2021 04 blue exterior grey profile suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 lincoln corsair gt 2021 03 blue exterior front angle grey suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 lincoln corsair gt 2021 02 blue exterior front angle grey suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 lincoln corsair gt 2021 06 blue exterior grey rear angle suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 lincoln corsair gt 2021 05 blue exterior grey rear angle suv scaled jpg

Maybe you’re not quite ready for a fully electric luxury SUV, such as a Tesla Model Y. Perhaps range anxiety has gotten the best of you, or you like the idea of motoring around town without using any gas but also road-tripping to areas where DC fast chargers aren’t terribly common. Whatever your reason, a luxury SUV with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain might make more sense — and thankfully, there are still a good number of these on the market.

Related: 2020 Lincoln Corsair: 8 Things We Like (and 3 Not So Much)

Shop the 2021 Audi Q5 near you

Used
2021 Audi Q5 45 Premium Plus
37,674 mi.
$28,600
Used
2021 Audi Q5 40 Premium Plus
15,560 mi.
$37,998

Two such models are the 2021 Audi Q5 55 TFSI e Quattro (what a mouthful) and 2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring, two compact SUVs with gas-electric hybrid drivetrains, larger battery packs and plugs to recharge them from a land-based outlet. They don’t have the electric range of a full EV, but since they have gas engines on board, they can continue indefinitely after their battery runs dry with just a conventional stop at a gas pump.

On paper, these two compact luxury plug-in SUVs compare quite favorably. Both are luxurious, chock-full of technology and even priced similarly, at just over $60,000 for the examples I evaluated. But testing them back to back over the course of a few days of normal driving showed me they actually work and feel quite differently from each other — with one of them coming out ahead in its operation. Here’s how I think they stack up.

Shop the 2021 Lincoln Corsair near you

Used
2021 Lincoln Corsair Standard
21,319 mi.
$27,950
Used
2021 Lincoln Corsair Standard
19,723 mi.
$26,400 $2,600 price drop

Driving Dynamics

Winner: Q5

While both small crossovers have similar intentions, they differ in how they deliver their plug-in hybrid goodness. The Lincoln is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to two electric motors that have been integrated into its continuously-variable-style automatic transmission. The powertrain produces a combined 266 system horsepower delivered through both axles thanks to standard all-wheel drive. The Audi, on the other hand, outguns it significantly: It produces 362 system hp from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder mated to its electric motor system, and it channels that power through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. That’s nearly 100 hp more than the Lincoln. Despite the slightly bigger Audi’s roughly 250 pounds of extra weight, it’s enough to make the Audi feel considerably quicker than the Lincoln around town.

Neither SUV is particularly quick when just operating in EV mode, which both can do through a driver-selectable control (the Lincoln only somewhat; more on that later), but when they’re in pure hybrid mode, the Audi handily runs away from the Lincoln, with notably more oomph on tap. The only issue is the odd feeling that the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic generates — I’m not used to feeling gears shift in electric-only mode, as most hybrid or all-electric systems use a CVT-style unit if they use a conventional transmission at all. It results in some rather abrupt transitions between electric and gasoline operation in the Q5, a tendency that doesn’t afflict the Lincoln’s smoother, better integrated powertrain.

But that seems to be the differentiating theme between the Lincoln and the Audi: The Lincoln is tuned for the brand’s “quiet flight” mantra to provide silent, smooth, easy operation that requires little thought but provides little excitement, only calmness. The Audi keeps more with the brand’s precision engineering, with a sportier, more precise driving experience that shows up in steering feel, braking feel and the slightly firmer ride quality.

If occasional speed and European-style control is what you enjoy, the Audi will appeal to you despite its clunky transmission behavior; if driving enjoyment is secondary to isolation and coddling, the Lincoln might be more your speed. Still, in terms of which one delivers a better driving experience, the Audi feels more sophisticated in body control and ride quality. Combine that with its more powerful, responsive powertrain and it gets the edge.

Luxury Trimmings

Tie

Again, the philosophies behind the two brands are on vivid display inside the Corsair and Q5. The Audi is a little bigger inside, but not by much, and unless you’re comparing them side-by-side, they’re as near as you can tell. Comfort is good in both of them, but the Lincoln suffers from the malady of short front-seat bottoms that affects nearly all products from Lincoln and parent company Ford these days. It’s certainly more posh and artistic in the Lincoln, however, with my Grand Touring example sporting a premium leather-trimmed interior in Cashew leather to complement the lovely Flight Blue exterior. You can get some more adventurous colors in the Lincoln, but there’s no top Black Label version of the Corsair as there is with other Lincoln models, which would bring a truly stunning level of design. Still, it’s obvious that Lincoln has let the artistry show through with items like a piano-key transmission selector that’s beautiful, unique and easy to use.

audi q5 e 2021 11 badge exterior suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 14 interior drivers seat front passenger seat front row steering wheel suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 13 interior front row infotainment system steering wheel suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 15 interior front row suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 16 interior drivers seat front passenger seat front row suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 31 interior back row suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 30 interior controls door suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 21 interior gear shift suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 32 interior cargo suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 36 badge blue exterior suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 40 interior drivers seat front passenger seat front row steering wheel suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 45 interior front row infotainment system suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 39 interior front row infotainment system steering wheel suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 41 interior front row suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 42 interior drivers seat front passenger seat front row suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 49 interior back row suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 50 interior cargo suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 51 interior cargo folding seats suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 11 badge exterior suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 14 interior drivers seat front passenger seat front row steering wheel suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 13 interior front row infotainment system steering wheel suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 15 interior front row suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 16 interior drivers seat front passenger seat front row suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 31 interior back row suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 30 interior controls door suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 21 interior gear shift suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 32 interior cargo suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 36 badge blue exterior suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 40 interior drivers seat front passenger seat front row steering wheel suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 45 interior front row infotainment system suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 39 interior front row infotainment system steering wheel suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 41 interior front row suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 42 interior drivers seat front passenger seat front row suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 49 interior back row suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 50 interior cargo suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 51 interior cargo folding seats suv scaled jpg

The Q5 is more austere, relying on a German aesthetic the brand has perfected over the years, but it enjoys a level of precise feel that the Lincoln lacks. It should be noted that the Q5 still has actual physical buttons inside, unlike much of the rest of Audi’s lineup, which has gone to maddeningly inferior touch-sensitive controls that don’t exude any sense of luxury. The Q5’s buttons still do, from the crisp sound each one produces to the look of the fonts themselves. Such operation conveys gravitas by showing evidence of quality engineering, lofting the Q5 into its intended class; it also makes up for the rather bland color choices and unremarkable cabin design. It’s not as flashy as the Lincoln, but it feels good in there.

Hybrid Operation

Winner: Q5

Both models offer the ability to operate in full electric mode for a limited distance before kicking on the gasoline engine to keep you going. But the two systems operate very differently. First, the Audi’s EV mode will actually keep it operating as an EV unless you do something like mash the accelerator, at which point it determines you want more zip and fires up the gas engine to maximize power. (The Lincoln does the same. Almost all hybrids do.)

But I found that it’s not possible to keep the Lincoln in EV-only mode, even when you select it, as a dozen different conditions can wheel up the gas engine when it decides it needs to. This is the same situation we found in the 2021 Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid, which uses a nearly identical powertrain that frustrated us just as much. It’ll start the engine if it thinks it needs engine braking on a downhill grade or if it thinks it’ll be a more efficient preservation of battery power. Like the Ford, the Lincoln will prod you with notification messages to get you to authorize engine usage even when you’re in EV mode before it decides you don’t know what you’re doing and engages the engine on its own. It’s maddening.

It’s for these operational quirks that I can’t award this category to the Lincoln despite superior efficiency ratings. The Audi Q5 is rated at 50 mpg-equivalent, with an estimated 19 miles of full EV range before the gas engine kicks in to provide 27 mpg combined. The Lincoln is rated at 28 miles of EV range at 78 mpg-equivalent before its gas engine provides a combined 33 mpg. (Both vehicles recommend premium fuel.) I was able to do a full EV range test on the Audi and found its 19-mile rating to be conservative: My test hit 25.9 miles on electricity alone. I was not able to perform this test on the Lincoln, however, as there is no setting that guarantees electric-only operation. Every time I tried, the gas engine would start with no way to turn it off, disqualifying the Lincoln from an EV-only range comparison.

audi q5 e 2021 18 interior instrument panel suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 28 interior infotainment system suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 44 interior instrument panel suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 43 interior instrument panel suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 23 interior infotainment system suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 24 interior infotainment system suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 20 interior instrument panel suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 27 interior infotainment system suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 26 interior infotainment system suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 19 interior instrument panel suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 17 interior instrument panel suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 25 interior infotainment system suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 28 interior infotainment system suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 18 interior instrument panel suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 28 interior infotainment system suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 44 interior instrument panel suv scaled jpg lincoln corsair gt 2021 43 interior instrument panel suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 23 interior infotainment system suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 24 interior infotainment system suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 20 interior instrument panel suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 27 interior infotainment system suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 26 interior infotainment system suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 19 interior instrument panel suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 17 interior instrument panel suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 25 interior infotainment system suv scaled jpg audi q5 e 2021 28 interior infotainment system suv scaled jpg

The Audi also offers up a great deal more information, courtesy of informative gauge and touchscreen displays, on what the vehicle is doing. There’s more statistical information in the Q5’s hybrid pages to let you know how driving style and other settings affect your efficiency, down to what the systems like the climate control are doing to the battery and available range. The Corsair would prefer not to burden its driver with extraneous information, resulting in a particularly empty-looking instrument screen and a lot of wondering about why the car is doing what it’s doing.

Onboard Tech

Winner: Q5

One of the biggest, clearest differences between the Q5 and Corsair involves the multimedia systems. While Lincoln may have the edge on interior artistry when it comes to materials and shapes, Audi dramatically outshines it with screen technology and advanced electronic systems.

Take the instrument cluster, for instance. Lincoln’s most recent aesthetic has been to minimize what’s in the display to the point of underwhelming content. The graphics are boring and spare, with acres of unused screen space that make you wonder why Lincoln even bothered with a digital cluster to begin with. The Q5’s screens, on the other hand, are highly customizable. They make full use of the available real estate to provide all kinds of information — maybe too much — with full map functions and a few different settings for information display, all of it tailored to show as much or as little as you want.

The Corsair’s displays just seem cheap by comparison, which is odd, as we know Ford can do some truly impressive digital displays, as it has for the Mustang and F-150 pickup truck.

Comparisons of both SUVs’ dashboard touchscreens are a bit more even. Both models offer clear, intuitive systems with a wide variety of functions. And some of the other electronics also come to a wash: Lincoln’s optional Revel premium stereo remains stunning, but Audi’s optional Bang & Olufsen stereo is no slouch, either. Ultimately, the superiority of the driver’s display pushes Audi past Lincoln in this category.

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Value

Winner: Q5

audi q5 e 2021 lincoln corsair gt 2021 07 badge blue exterior grey grille headlights suv scaled jpg 2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring (left) and 2021 Audi Q5 55 TFSI e Quattro | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman

The Lincoln Corsair spans quite a breadth of pricing, but the top Grand Touring model (which is only available as a plug-in hybrid) starts at $51,485 (all prices include destination). Add in Lincoln’s Equipment Group 301A (heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, some driver-assist tech and more), as well as the Technology Package, bigger wheels and tires, and 24-way adjustable front seats, and you’ve suddenly added nearly $11,000 to the tab to make the as-tested price a cool $62,480.

By contrast, Audi offers up the Q5 e Quattro PHEV in three different trim levels. They start at the Premium trim, which runs $52,995. Premium Plus and Prestige models are also available; mine was the Premium Plus (another $3,900 over the Premium), but additional options like onboard navigation, Bang & Olufsen audio, 20-inch wheels and special paint brought the as-tested price up to $60,740.

You could approach $70,000 with even more options for the Audi, but it already has everything the Lincoln does, plus a significantly stronger drivetrain that still lets you get 25 miles on a charge and a more comfortable interior with better multimedia technology. That combination says to us that the Audi Q5 TFSI e is the plug-in-hybrid luxury SUV you should buy.

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Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Photo of Aaron Bragman
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has had over 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone when he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiles on faces. Today, he’s a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/sassy. Email Aaron Bragman

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